A 20 Mile Kickoff to Autumn

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park

On Saturday, I took to Central Park with good intentions of enjoying a glorious Fall day while grinding out my long training run – the longest of the season so far. Ah… if only things would have worked out the way I had planned. As it turned out, I ran smack into the middle of a circus, or rather, the global citizen concert that was on that day, which I would have known about if I had bothered to pay attention the whole of last week. Oh well, I consoled myself, a runner’s gotta do what a runner’s gotta do. Right?

To each his own, but I’m akin to a dog with a bone when I’m on a mission, and there was no way I was leaving the park without accomplishing what I set out to do – all 20 miles of it. I soon figured that with the crowds, the police, and the barricades, I would be better off sticking to the bridal path which was the only place left to run that wasn’t teeming with people, for the most part anyway. Turned out nowhere was sacred and it was being used as a parking lot, which provided me and – surprise – other runners with minimal running space. Seemed I wasn’t the only one clueless or maybe the others just didn’t care, their pace certainly not indicating any kind of urgency or purpose really. In any event, what saved the day and ensured some pluses for me was the fact that though I had gotten a late start – at the height of noonday, which is only possible during Fall, though I was still testing it as we were only into the second day of it – there was a slight coolness and breeze that ensured it wasn’t a humid eighty degrees. So while it was still hot and I perspired profusely, I was running on the inside trail and not the roadway and was therefore able to benefit from the shade from overhead trees and less impact to my knees. At certain points it was even possible to tune out the people factor and enjoy the music, which was certainly loud enough. Another plus was that the water fountains were still on to which I religiously succumbed, albeit unwisely.

If you’ve ever run in Central Park on a Saturday then you know it’s better suited to early am short runs. In spite of this, I was able to tolerate the tourists with their bikes and entourages – most New Yorker’s have little patience with their slow and wandering gait – and take in the beautiful spectacle that is Fall with its colorful trees and dropping leaves. In the strangest way that Autumn is wont to do, it was able to calm me, give me focus, inspire my thanks and appreciation and encourage my finish.

While I’ve been running for many years, I’m still learning or being reminded of things I learnt a while aback, some of which were (1) Avoid running at midday unless it’s in the dead of Winter. (2) Laps are never a good idea for 20 miles. (3) One or two sips of water is always better p/mile than gulps. (4) It’s always better to stick with a tried and true method; such as, if gels work for you then leave the bars alone, and (5) Never go for long runs in the park on a weekend if you can help it.

I finished, rather wearied and drained and called it a day about 2 hours and 45 minutes later. In all honesty it felt like the longest 2:45 ever and I was happy to get home and get horizontal; there I remained until the next morning hoping never for a repeat performance.

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